At first, I was very pleased with my hospital stay when I delivered my daughter a few weeks ago via c-section. But I’m learning more and more about things that they did wrong to me (health issues they caused) and things they didn’t notice with my daughter. One of those things is something called an Umbilical Hernia. I noticed immediately after she was born that her umbilical stump/belly button looked different, but no one on the hospital staff (nor did her pediatrician on the first two visits until I mentioned it) told me anything about it. I assumed it was normal and it had been a while since my last daughter was born so I had just forgotten what defined “normal” for a belly button. Well, her umbilical cord finally fell out. Woo-hoo!
I took her to pediatrician visit #2 and before the visit was over, I asked her if the belly button looked normal (because it looked absolutely abnormal to me). She took one look at it and knew immediately that it was something called an Umbilical Hernia. Okay. Had no one thought to mention this to me before? What the hell was wrong with my baby? A hernia? She’s only a few weeks old. She was BORN with this? What?
Well never to fear, it’s nothing to be to concerned about. The doctor didn’t explain things very well, but after some research on my own, I learned a lot more about it. Most umbilical hernia’s go away by the age of 3 or 4, and those that do not, may require surgery. However, surgery is unlikely.
So what is it you ask? An umbilical hernia is an outward bulging (protrusion) of the abdominal lining or part of the abdominal organ(s) through the area around the belly button. This occurs when the muscle through which the blood vessels pass to feed the developing fetus don’t close completely. Makes sense, huh?
Apparently, umbilical hernias are fairly common in infants. They occur slightly more often in African Americans. Most umbilical hernias are stand alone conditions and are not related to any type of other disease. Umbilical hernias can occur in adults as well, but that is really a separate condition with different underlying factors that I will not be discussing in this post.
What does it look like? Well, there is a soft swelling over the belly button that often bulges when the baby sits up, cries, or strains. The bulge may be flat when the infant lies on the back and is quiet.
Like I said previously, most umbilical hernias get better without treatment and by the time the child is 3 to 4 years old. Those that do not close or continue past the age of 3 to 4, may require surgery. Umbilical hernias are usually painless. Thank goodness!
As long as there is no swelling, pain or discoloration at the site, then there is nothing to fear. However, if the hernia ever becomes tender, swollen or discolored, or is accompanied by abdominal pain, take your infant to the hospital just to be safe.
There is no known way to prevent an umbilical hernia. Taping the umbilical hernia down will not help it go away. I can press my daughters down and it will bounce back up. Something I do is check the area each time I change her diaper. I press around the belly button/umbilical hernia and make sure her abdomen feels normal. Then, I press down on the belly button/umbilical hernia to make sure it can be pressed down and bounces back up easily. This is also to make sure that it is not causing her any pain.
Here is a picture of what it looks like on an actual infant:
This one looks worse in the picture than it does now because the umbilical cord had just recently fallen out. It doesn’t look like this all the time. Sometimes it’s completely flat, almost deflated looking, when she is still or sleeping. But at times, when she is straining, crying, etc., it pops up like in the picture.
So it’s a strange condition. A random occurrence for which there is no known reason. But at least it’s not dangerous and we have no reason to fear it. We pray that it goes down on it’s own, but if it doesn’t, we will revisit our options in a couple of years.